Most Interesting People 2012: Michael Walton

Michael Walton

co-founder of tunnel vision hoops, 52

/ Why he’s interesting / Walton set out to create a space for gardening at the drug treatment facility where he is a counselor. With only two acres of grass and a design he found on the Internet, he built his first hoop house, essentially a less expensive greenhouse made of a long tunnel of curved metal rods covered with plastic sheeting. Today, along with his business partners, Walton has built more than 16 of his hoop houses throughout Northeast Ohio.

/ The greenhouse effect / After tweaking the original designs found online for hoop houses, Walton and his business partners caught the attention of Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Botanical Garden. “It turned into more than just ‘we’ll do this for our friends’ because we had made friends in high places.”

/ A patented solution / The temperatures inside greenhouses without electricity can reach 100 degrees, even on cool days in October. “Just imagine if it was a truly hot summer day. Then it could get up to 120 degrees, which is fine if you’re trying to grow tropical plants, but most people throughout Cleveland are trying to grow food.” To help beat the heat, Tunnel Vision Hoops developed a patent-pending retractable-dome end wall that can be completely raised or lowered.

/ Growing anything, anywhere / Walton constructed half a hoop house on the side of a church on Franklin Avenue. “We really find out what people are looking for and then find a way to do that. We’ve built on asphalt, we’ve built on rocky soil, and we’ve built on truly lush country soil.”

/ Surviving in the snow belt / After a hoop house designed for the Cleveland Botanical Garden was able to harvest all season, Walton hopes to make year-round growing available statewide.

/ A busy bee / When he isn’t building, designing or farming in a hoop house, Walton can probably be found at one of his other four jobs. He is a drug counselor, runs a team-building and leadership business, works as an assistant pastor and runs a nonprofit for environmental issues with his wife.

/ His favorite vegetable / Swiss chard. He even posed with it in the picture above. “We grow a variety called rainbow chard. Primarily, it is a leafy green, but we grow varieties that are green, red, yellow and purple.”

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